Mark E. Petersen

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Mark E. Petersen
Mark E. Petersen.JPG
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 20, 1944 (1944-04-20) – January 11, 1984 (1984-01-11)
LDS Church Apostle
April 20, 1944 (1944-04-20) – January 11, 1984 (1984-01-11)
Reason Excommunication of Richard R. Lyman
at end of term
Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks were ordained after the deaths of Petersen and LeGrand Richards
Personal details
Born Mark Edward Petersen
(1900-11-07)November 7, 1900
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Died January 11, 1984(1984-01-11) (aged 83)
Murray, Utah, United States
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37.92″N 111°51′28.8″W / 40.7772000°N 111.858000°W / 40.7772000; -111.858000

Mark Edward Petersen (November 7, 1900 – January 11, 1984) was an American news editor and religious leader who served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1944 until his death. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, he filled the vacancy in the Quorum caused by the excommunication of Richard R. Lyman. Petersen had become managing editor of the church-owned Deseret News in 1935 and editor in 1941.

Early life[edit]

As a young boy, Petersen was a newspaper carrier, and he also helped in his father’s construction business. Later, he attended the University of Utah and served a mission for the LDS Church in Nova Scotia; in pursuing a career, he became a reporter for the Deseret News and continued working for the paper for sixty years, advancing to the position of president and chairman of the board. Petersen wrote numerous editorials and published more than forty books and many pamphlets used in the church’s missionary effort.


In April 1944, while serving as general manager of the Deseret News, Petersen was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; in his calling as an apostle, he directed the church’s public information programs and served on the Military Relations Committee. He was an adviser to the Relief Society, the Indian Affairs Committee, and the Music Committee, he served as president of the West European Mission[1] for more than six years. Petersen was also involved in many community affairs, he was closely associated with the Boy Scouts of America and was a recipient of the Silver Antelope Award. In 1959, in response to a rash of arrests of gay men in Utah and Idaho, church president David O. McKay assigned apostles Spencer W. Kimball and Petersen to work on curing gays within the church.[2][3]

Controversial teachings[edit]

At Brigham Young University on August 27, 1954, at the Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Petersen delivered the speech, "Race Problems—As They Affect the Church",[4] the speech outlined the religious underpinnings of racial segregation and supported its continued practice as it related to intermarriage between blacks and whites. Particularly, he reaffirmed the LDS Church's stance at that time that those with dark skin had been less valiant in their lives before coming to earth,[5][6] he also reiterated the idea that blacks were to be servants to righteous white people after the resurrection, as was the case with Jane Manning James who was sealed to Joseph Smith to be his servant in the next life.[7] Petersen said:

"In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom, he will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection. He will get a place in the celestial glory."

In the 1940s, Petersen coined the term "Mormon fundamentalist" to describe people who had left the LDS Church to practice plural marriage.[8]


Petersen died from longstanding complications of cancer after entering Cottonwood Hospital in Murray, Utah, and undergoing surgery,[1] he was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Grave marker of Mark E. Petersen.



  1. ^ a b "This week in Church History". Church News. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News. January 3, 2009. Retrieved 2014-12-17. 
  2. ^ O'Donovan, Rocky (1994). Multiply and Replenish: Mormon Essays on Sex and Family. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. p. 147. ISBN 1-56085-050-7. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  3. ^ Kimball, Edward L.; Kimball, Andrew E. (1977). Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft. p. 381. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ McNamara, Mary Lou (24 January 2001). Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives (Reprint ed.). Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. p. 318. ISBN 0252069595. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  6. ^ First Presidency Letter of the First Presidency Archived December 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. August 17, 1949
  7. ^ "Excerpts from the Weekly Council Meetings of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Dealing with the Rights of Negroes in the Church, 1849–1940". George Albert Smith Papers. University of Utah. [non-primary source needed]
  8. ^ Ken Driggs, "'This Will Someday Be the Head and Not the Tail of the Church': A History of the Mormon Fundamentalists at Short Creek", Journal of Church and State 43:49 (2001) at p. 51.

Further reading[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Ezra Taft Benson
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 20, 1944 – January 11, 1984
Succeeded by
Matthew Cowley